The night before Amy Fote and dancers of the Houston Ballet celebrated her impressive career in Houston with JUBILEE OF DANCE, the charming and convivial Amy Fote took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to talk with me. With her retirement from the company drawing near, we took the opportunity to talk about how she got involved in dance, her career, and what she plans to do next.
Me: How did you get involved in dance?
Amy Fote: Well, my sister, who is four years older than I am, Lily, she was taking dance. She would come home and practice her steps, and I was intrigued by this. I would kind of emulate her a little bit. And so when I turned four, my mother had enrolled me as well, and all of a sudden, you know, one thing led to another and it just became a part of me. [Laughs] I kept dancing around the living room. So, it started when I was four years old because I had an older sister that was dancing.
Me: What was your first professional role?
Amy: My first professional role? Oh my goodness. I think I was in the corps de ballet in SWAN LAKE with Milwaukee Ballet.
Me: How did you become involved with Houston Ballet? Was it a transfer.
Amy: Yes, actually. I was dancing with Milwaukee Ballet at the time. During one of the seasons I was there, the Royal New Zealand Ballet needed a guest artist to perform the lead in Stanton Welch’s MADAME BUTTERFLY. So, in heading over to New Zealand I met the Ballet Master for Houston Ballet, whose name is Steven Woodgate. When our time was coming to an end he just said something to me like, “I hope I see you again.” That stuck with me. He was very sincere. Upon returning back to Milwaukee I realized, “you know what, I think I would love to spread my wings and try something else.” So, I ventured down to Houston. I auditioned, and I was offered a First Soloist position. I was promoted the following year to Principal. It was one of the best decisions I had ever made. I was hesitant because I was a Principal at Milwaukee [Ballet], but I honesty have not looked back and have danced so many beautiful works since I have been here. I have grown so much, not only as an artist but technically. I think it just happens as the years go by that you realize what your fortes are. I love the fact that I chose to come to Houston.
Me: What was your first role with Houston Ballet?
Amy: I danced the lead role in ONEGIN, Tatiana. That was the first time I was introduced to the Houston audience. It’s a fabulous [John] Cranko work. It’s very dramatic, definitely a true classic. I love the story ballets.
Me: What has your favorite role with Houston Ballet been?
Amy: Oh goodness. Well, that [Tatiana in ONEGIN] was very special to me because, of course, that was the first time that not only the company had seen me, but the audience. I felt very accepted straightaway because after doing a run-through in the studio with the company they were so complementary and they applauded and made me feel very much a part of the group. It felt like a rarity in that situation. I knew in the moment that that was happening it was special. I also loved MADAME BUTTERFLY because that is something that is completely a reason why I ended up here in Houston. So that also has a lot of special sentiments attached to it. Furthermore, I enjoyed Kate in [THE] TAMING OF THE SHREW. I thought that was very fun. Gosh! I always loved doing Juliet in ROMEO AND JULIET. I have actually been Juliet in four different productions. So, that is a part—and a story—that I really love. It speaks to me. It’s almost whatever my favorite role is kind of seems to be whatever I’m working on in the moment. You just get really invested in whatever you are doing. And right now, for the gala, I’m performing excerpts from Stanton [Walsh]’s ballet MARIE, which is based on Marie Antoinette’s life, so that is something that I am enjoying as well as MERRY WIDOW, where I’m playing Hanna, and also MANON, where I am Manon. I actually really loved MANON. That was a fabulous work too. Oh my goodness. That was a [Sir Kenneth] MacMillian ballet. But these are all incredible works that the company has in their repertoire here.
Me: How does it feel to have a tribute show in honor of you?
Amy: Oh my goodness. [Laughs] You know, in thinking about it sometimes I get overwhelmed. I believe one of the most special gifts anyone could receive is to be honored in such a way. It’s really quite touching. So I’m trying not to think about it, but in reality it is happening and it’s a lovely way to be celebrated.